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Sask. First Nation sees increased police patrols following spate of overdoses

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RCMP and the federal Indigenous services ministry say they are stepping in to work with Red Pheasant Cree Nation after the community declared a state of emergency over an ongoing addiction crisis.

On Saturday, Red Pheasant made a public call for help after a spate of seven overdoses in a single day.

A representative for the First Nation said community leaders were in meetings all day on Monday to talk about how to deal with issues from overdose prevention and mental health treatment to interrupting the drug supply.

In a news release on Tuesday, the inspector in charge of the Battlefords RCMP detachment said they’ve increased patrols in the area. He called on community members to come forward with information about drug activity.

“This can be scary, to contact police to report illegal activity, but with key information, we can specifically target where and how the drugs are entering the community,” said Inspector Jesse Gilbert.

“The reality is multiple people from Red Pheasant Cree Nation nearly died this weekend because of the presence of illegal substances. Help us, so we can target the drugs present in the community and help prevent future overdoses,” Gilbert said.

The detachment is working collaboratively with local leadership and health services, the news release said.

As part of the increased patrols over the weekend, RCMP says officers seized drugs resembling opaque, rock-like candy.

Testing has yet to be done to identify it, but police said they received reports the substance is referred to as “flakka,” a synthetic stimulant.

Red Pheasant told CTV News on Monday that community leaders will be reaching out to partners at Indigenous Services Canada and other local groups over the next week to develop a strategy.

In a statement on Tuesday, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) spokesperson Zeus Eden said the federal department is working closely with the community.

“We are wholeheartedly with the families in Red Pheasant Cree Nation that are impacted by this tragedy. We will be at their sides to support them as they manage the devastating impacts of this crisis,” Eden said.

Eden said ISC has deployed three mental wellness therapists to the community since Sept. 1, and a fourth on Tuesday following a request from the community.

“We take this seriously and are making historic investments in mental health and substance use prevention and treatment services,” Eden said.

“We will continue to work with the community leaders to meet the urgent demands of this pressing crisis.”

Luckily, no one died as a result of the overdoses on Friday, Red Pheasant spokesperson Austin Ahenakew says. Staff at the community's clinic were able to reverse a number of the overdoses using narcan — a drug that blocks the effects of opioid drugs like fentanyl.

Red Pheasant Chief Lux Benson has reportedly told members of his community that residents of houses where drug dealing is suspected could be evicted.

 Ahenakew says so far no one has been forced from their homes, but people are being warned.

"We want to give people a chance to stop what they're doing if they're selling drugs."

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